Alf Karrim – Activism in South Africa

Alf Karrim is a life-long activist, whose working experience at the executive levels in a variety of industries offer an interesting perspective on South African life. Alf emerged from being a student and community activist in the 1970s fighting the Apartheid regime, to working in rural development environments. He experienced corporate life as the CEO of Orbicom, and has worked in business management and financing. He currently maintains an interest in environmentally friendly property development and works with the South African Revenue Service, to find solutions to combating corruption.

In his spare time he sets up community reading rooms in schools and select communities to encourage reading and literacy.

About this Conversation

We reminisce with Alf about activism in the days of Apartheid and the need for activism today.

We unpack with Alf the meaning of activism, the loss of activists in a post apartheid South Africa and the relevance of activism to our current democracy.

We also explore with him the consequences to society when “no voices speak out for what is right”, the difference between “protesting” and “activism” and the limitation of the reactive activism that typifies modern political action. We discuss the threat posed to our society by the increasing apathy of citizens, locally and across the globe. He also shares with us his view of the mechanisms available for citizens to have their voices heard, and hold institutions of the state accountable.

Alf shares with us his vision for a new kind of activism, which is pro-active and driven by the youth.  He talks about public sector activism and the need for a developmental approach to transforming society.

Points of Discussion

  • What keeps you trying to transform society?
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  • In the past the (Apartheid) state was the enemy, what is this new activism today as we realize that state can’t do it alone?
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  • What is the difference between an Activist and a Protestor
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  • Have South Africans just got lazy and given up on Activism?
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  • Why is there this tension between former (anti Apartheid) Activists who are now in Government and Business and the citizenry?
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  • Who is an Activist?
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  • What does last years (2011) Time Person of the year being the Protestor tell you about where the world is currently and are the institution’s there to support Activism?
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  • What is your take on the Protection of Information Bill?
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  • Are we able to form new alliances and strategies for Activism outside of political parties in South Africa?
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  • How can fight issues such as corruption and poor service delivery?
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  • How do we balance the need for a developmental state with the urgent need for services and where do we find the people to do this?
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  • Do we need leadership or courage in the South African public service to realize positive change, given the scourge of corruption and largess?
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  • Is it not the responsibility of journalists and the media to show citizens how they can change their circumstances not only to complain and raise awareness of failings?
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  • Your view on greed and its cost on society?
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